I recently committed to spending New Year’s Eve in the sleepy, mystical little valley-village of Hogsback. A series of uneventful New Years’ and a need for a little adventure brought on the decision; one, which, when I tell people about it, makes them ratchet their eyebrows up just a fraction. I’m not really the Hogsback type. I know this myself. It was confirmed when I phoned to place the booking at our backpackers of choice, Away with the Fairies; a name which both piqued my interest and raised the hairs on the back of my neck.
Indeed, their logo features a blue-locked pixie atop a toadstool. Subtle strains of trance music burbled down the line as the person on the other end explained that the only chalet left to book was named after a Lord of the Rings character; Samwise, I believe. Other options were Bilbo and yes, Frodo. This kind of novelty gives me a secret and perverse thrill, especially as I possess a healthy disregard for all things fantasy-genre-related, so I booked Samwise with a glint in my eye.
Hogsback being the inspiration for much of Tolkien’s famous scenery is of course of interest to me. I’m certainly not the first camper to put my hand up for a hike (nor a camper, in general), but I appreciate greenery, forest walks and awe-inspiring vistas as much as the next person. Friends murmured about hiking trails (which I’m only really interested in unless they end in a refreshing, Tolkienesque waterfall) and the arty (‘beardy weirdy’, says my friend Sam) community there. You see, they think these things will deter me, but secretly, I’m thrilled. To all appearances I’m anti roughing it, but people don’t realise that I’m an expert at dressing the part. And once I’m there, in character, you best move to the back of the hair wrap queue.
The trance music set off distant alarm bells, as I was transported back to the one and only ‘outdoor’ party I’ve even been to, Earthdance, in 2009. Having never been to one before, and unsure about what to pack, I adopted a ‘more is more’ approach. I filled a bag fit for a two-week European sojourn, on wheels and near-on a metre in length. Whilst dragging it through the dust, admittedly a little sheepish, I was confronted by two hippies sitting on a nearby knoll. ‘Hey,’ the one shouted through her stringy dreadlocks, ‘Heathrow’s that way!’ Since that feeble day I have done my best to pack sensibly. ‘Sensibly’, for me, will always include an impressive selection of accessories. It may or may not also include a party dress, even if we are going to the desert.
Hogsback will be no different, especially as I am loathe to part with my NYE tradition of getting dressed up. New Years in Hogsback may be Shire-like, but that’s no reason to dress like a hobbit. Right?